Friday, April 10, 2009

Dealing with Leukemia and Friends

Q: I have leukemia and so I can’t go to school. I have a tutor at home. My old friends don’t come over any more. My mom says that they probably don’t know if it’s all right to talk to me about my leukemia. I don’t mind talking about it because it helps me. I’m bald because of chemo and that might make them uncomfortable too. My pastor does come see me a lot and I like that.

Any ideas about what I can do to get my friends to come over and what I can do to pass the time? I’m bored a lot.

A: I know all of the answers on this blog are supposed to be answered by your peers, but I just have to answer this one myself. You see, I kind of know how you feel. When I was thirteen-years old, I had back surgery. Afterward, I was put into a body cast and bedridden for six months.

My friends were afraid to visit me for a long time. In fact, after my best friend came to visit upon my return home from the hospital, she didn’t come back. It was understandable why. I had been brought home by an ambulance, still groggy from pain medication, wearing a body cast from my chin to the top of my legs, and put into a hospital bed in the middle of my family’s living room. I was quite a sight.

When I didn’t see my girlfriend for a whole week, I gave her a call. I figured out that she must’ve felt uncomfortable around me, so I was totally upfront with her. I told her that it was okay to talk about my surgery; I didn’t mind at all. I also let her know how much I missed her company. Slowly, but surely, she started coming over more and more until she got in the habit of visiting everyday after school. After a while, she started bringing our friends from the neighborhood too.

I suggest that you call your closest friend and let him know that you would like him to come around more often. Tell him that you know that it may be uncomfortable for him at first. It’ll only take a few visits for him to get use to your appearance and to be open to talking about your leukemia. Once that happens, ask him to bring another friend now and then.

When he does come, make the visit fun. Play some games, catch up on all the latest news from school, make favorite snacks, watch a movie (something uplifting), or play video games. Let him see that you can still enjoy yourself.

One thing I remember is that my tutor only came to my house for two hours a day. This gave me a lot of free time to kill, especially considering my friends were in school more than six hours. I read a lot (which requires geeky prism glasses when you’re forced to lay flat on your back – no sitting). If you’re not a big reader, but like a good story, listen to audio books. You can borrow them free from the library.

I strongly suggest learning a new skill. If you like music, learn the guitar. If you like computer work, learn web design. Think about how cool it will be when your friends, family, or pastor come to visit and you can show off your new skill. So, think hard about what interests you and what you can learn at home.

I have to say that I believe a lot of my character was formed during my time of convalescence. I learned a lot about patience and humility. Most importantly, I learned how to appreciate the little things in life (like being able to sit and walk!). I pray that you will be well soon, and that this experience will have a lot of positive outcomes for you. God bless!

Mrs. Wittmann